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Branson Prepares for Its Centennial

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BRANSON, Mo. (AP) - As the southwest Missouri tourist mecca of Branson prepares to celebrate its centennial, organizers can’t help but notice that disaster binds the city of today with the city of 100 years ago.

The EF-2 tornado that struck Feb. 29 brought winds of up to 130 mph as it hopped along the Branson Strip. The storm damaged about four dozen commercial structures, including six of the town’s 50 theaters and 22 of its 200 hotels and motels.

It turns out that just months after the city was incorporated on April 1, 1912, a fire destroyed much of its downtown. According to the centennial website, the city did not have a fire department.

“History repeats itself, that’s the only thing we can really say,” Julee Cooke, centennial project director, told The Springfield News-Leader.

The good news for planners of centennial efforts is that last month’s twister didn’t touch any of the venues that will be used during the centennial celebration. Planning committee member Bethany Thomas says there are no changes to the schedule.

One part of the centennial celebration is a temporary history museum, which will be housed in Branson’s first gas station. It will feature artifacts and re-enactors dressed as historical Branson figures. One likely candidate for re-enactors is the town’s namesake, Reuben S. Branson, who opened a general store and post office in 1882.

“They’re going to be dressed up as these folks and give little spiels on what they’re doing,” Bonnie Herrmann, a member of the centennial planning committee, said. The major exhibits are expected to rotate out every few weeks, she said.

Cooke said she hopes a permanent museum can eventually be established.

The mayor, Raeanne Presley, and other officials will be dressed in period costumes April 1 and will re-sign a petition to incorporate the city.

The next major event in the celebration is the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 14 at Titanic Branson, an attraction that tells the story of the ill-fated ship. That will be followed by a centennial celebration show April 15.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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